The Los Angeles County Museum of Art will receive a gift of a Baroque-era masterpiece by Bernardo Strozzi from Phillipa Calnan, a former public affairs director for LACMA and the J. Paul Getty Trust, writes Christopher Knight in "Recovered Nazi-looted artwork to be donated to LACMA" for the Los Angeles Times.
The life-size figure of St. Catherine of Alexandria, painted in Genoa around 1615 by Bernardo Strozzi, was installed Monday in the third floor galleries for European art. The painting, valued at between $2.5 million and $3 million, is a promised gift to the museum, where it vaults to the top tier of paintings in LACMA's collection.An Italian court ordered the painting's return to Calnan.
It disappeared after the 1943 Nazi occupation of Florence, one of nearly a dozen works stolen from the collection assembled by Charles A. Loeser, an American expatriate and heir to a Brooklyn department store fortune. Loeser moved to Italy in 1890 and died in 1928. Ten years after Loeser's death, prior to the outbreak of World War II, Mussolini's fascist government passed a series of anti-Jewish "racial laws." Loeser's widow, daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter left Florence before the German occupation, leaving behind valuable works of art restricted from leaving Italy. The painting vanished in April 1944, after the Nazi prefect set up headquarters in the family's Villa Torri di Gattaia, located on the city's highest hill.
The Strozzi was one of several Loeser collection works on the authoritative list of Nazi-plundered art compiled after the war by Rodolfo Siviero, an Italian art historian called "the 007 of art" for his work as an Allied secret agent. It is also recorded in Germany's Lost Art Internet Database, established to track Nazi loot. The painting first surfaced around 2008 in Vienna, where it was sold by an unidentified Austrian collector.
Sotheby's was approached about accepting the painting for auction, but research into its provenance, or history of ownership, identified its status as Nazi plunder. The auction house notified Italian police and contacted Calnan, Loeser's granddaughter.